The care home company whose employee refused to administer CPR to a dying woman has said the employee wrongly interpreted its policy.
The elderly woman’s family said she would not have wanted life-prolonging aid.
Brookdale Senior Living issued a statement saying the employee’s failure to heed an emergency dispatcher’s instructions was the result of a misunderstanding of the company’s emergency medical practices.
The developments were the latest twist in a controversy following release of a tape of an emergency call that recounts a dramatic seven-minute conversation on February 26 between a dispatcher and a nurse at Glenwood Gardens independent living home in Sacramento, California.
The nurse refused to co-operate with pleas for someone to start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as fire crews sped to the scene. The dispatcher insisted that the woman who identified herself as a nurse perform CPR or find someone willing to do it. Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old resident of the home, later died.
Ms Bayless’s family said she was aware that Glenwood Gardens did not offer trained medical staff.
“It was our beloved mother and grandmother’s wish to die naturally and without any kind of life-prolonging intervention,” said the family statement.
“We understand that the 911 tape of this event has caused concern, but our family knows that mom had full knowledge of the limitations of Glenwood Gardens and is at peace.”
Brookdale Senior Living later said: “This incident resulted from a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents. Glenwood Gardens is conducting a full internal investigation.”
The company said the employee is on voluntary leave during the probe.
City fire officials say Ms Bayless did not have a “do not resuscitate” order on file at the home. The family and the company have not commented.
Glenwood Gardens is an independent living facility, and company officials say no medical staff are employed there. The woman who identified herself as a nurse to the dispatcher was employed at the facility as a resident services director, the company said.
The nurse’s decision has prompted multiple state and local investigations.
The California attorney general is “aware” of the incident, said a spokeswoman, Lynda Gledhill, and Bakersfield police are trying to determine whether a crime was committed when the nurse refused to assist the emergency dispatcher.
The nation’s largest trade group for senior living facilities has called for its members to review policies that employees might interpret as edicts to not co-operate with emergency responders.
“It was a complete tragedy,” said Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of the Assisted Living Federation of America. “Our members are now looking at their policies to make sure they are clear. Whether they have one to initiate (CPR) or not, they should be responsive to what the 911 person tells them to do.”
Ms Bayless collapsed in the Glenwood Gardens dining hall on February 26. Someone called the emergency dispatcher on a mobile phone asking for an ambulance to be sent and eventually a woman who identified herself as a nurse got on the line.
Brookdale Senior Living said in a statement that the woman on the emergency call was “serving in the capacity of a resident services director, not a nurse”.
The Tennessee-based parent company also said that by law, the independent living facility is “not licensed to provide medical care to any of its residents”, but it added later that it was reviewing company policies “involving emergency medical care across all of our communities”.